Mental health experts expecting worse than usual suicide numbers during pandemic

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 9:18 AM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Thursday is World Suicide Prevention Day, and this year, it’s more important than ever.

COVID-19 is having a staggering effect on our mental health. In a recent study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the percentage of people who contemplated suicide in the previous month was double the percentage of people who thought about it in the entire 2018 year.

According to Robin Isenberg, director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Toledo, coronavirus is making the world even more stressful. However, resources are harder to get ahold of now when people need them the most.

At the center, group therapies and classes have all moved online, which is not the same as forging those in-person connections. Online resources can also be more difficult to access, especially for people dealing with a mental illness.

Meanwhile, the biggest risk factor for suicide is mental illness or mental health challenges. So NAMI is asking all of us on World Suicide Prevention Day today to reach out to those we care about who might be struggling and let them know they’re not alone.

“It’s OK to ask people, ‘How are you really feeling?’ ‘Have you thought about suicide?’ It’s OK to have those conversations because actually those conversations don’t cause people to take their lives. What they do is make people think, ‘Oh gosh, there’s somebody here that cares about me,’” says Isenberg.

The executive director at Lucas County Suicide Prevention Coalition, Jen Wakefield says this is the beginning of the busy season for the organization.

She says suicides in young people spike in the first six weeks of schools, and then we move into the holidays when it’s most likely for older adults to take their own lives.

This year, with the extra stress of the pandemic, experts predict it might be worse than usual.

On World Suicide Prevention Day, there’s usually an event to raise awareness, but this year, the pandemic is preventing those in-person gatherings. But the Lucas County Suicide Prevention Coalition is still running an online and social media campaign throughout the entire month, which is Suicide Prevention Month.

And there’s also something you can do to help prevent suicide.

“Not be too afraid to say, Are you thinking of hurting yourself? Because if they say yes, it might be scary for us, but that person, actually relieved that they can tell somebody that. And it doesn’t take an expert to help somebody in this situation. It’s empathy, it’s compassion, it’s being human,” says Wakefield.

If you feel you need to talk, or need some help, please text “HOPE” to 741741. A crisis counselor is available 24/7 to listen or help connect you to local resources. You can talk to a real person, and it is 100% free and 100% confidential.

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